Pennsylvania delegate Calvin Tucker is attending his second consecutive Republican National Convention this week. The 63-year-old ward leader and entrepreneur from Mt. Airy is the only African-American among Pennsylvania’s 71-member delegation.
Tucker is also one of just 18 African-Americans out of the 2,472 total delegates — which equates to less than 1 percent. And that’s after Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama in 2012, when the GOP launched an initiative to diversify the party’s look and platform.
Four years later, neither has occurred and Tucker, a lifelong Republican, sees that disconnect between blacks and the GOP locally.
“What most people see on a national basis is Republicans from communities that may not have the diversity that we have in urban communities,” he said. “Therefore, that’s not their interest to support our community.”
Tucker credits his parents for his allegiance to the GOP. They were Republicans at a time when the party more resembled the one that Abraham Lincoln helped create.
Since the 1960s — with the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” of recruiting those in former Democratic Jim Crow strongholds in the South to the GOP — blacks have fled the Republican Party in droves.
In Philadelphia, Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 8-to-1, largely bolstered by African-Americans.
Tucker, who also heads the city’s Black Republican Council and credits the work of late City Councilwoman Dr. Ethel Allen as an influence, understands the effect of that numbers game.
“In the city of Philadelphia, the Republican Party generally says who votes for us and who supports us,” he said. “If we don’t get a significant number of African-Americans supporting us, then they support those who support them — as is the case with the Democratic Party.”
This all comes at a time when the party’s newly minted nominee, Donald Trump, is polling at all-time low numbers among minority groups. Recent polls in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan show Trump, who has made inflammatory comments about Muslims, Latinos, women, and Black Lives Matter, getting no support from African-Americans.
Tucker, a Trump supporter, sees the billionaire’s controversial statements as nothing more than a case of tough campaign talk.
“Some of the things he said may have been misinterpreted or may have been interpreted in a way that didn’t reflect positively at that particular time,” said Tucker. “But I believe that he presents action that’s going to affect the lives of our citizens.”
Tucker said both parties need to be more sophisticated in their approach to reaching the black community. If not, the GOP could continue to be associated with a different kind of 1 percent.